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Lecture 11. Soul After Death.

Greek Epic Poetry.

IF we wished to know what the ancient Greeks thought about the departed, we should naturally turn to the Homeric poems, and therein more particularly to the eleventh book of the Odyssey, or the visit of Odysseus to the shades in Hades, the Nekyia.

We have no doubt a perfect right to take Homer as expressing the earliest thoughts of the Greeks on any subject. And this is the case all the more, if we look upon his poetry, not simply as the work of one individual, but as the result of the same growth of popular poetry which we meet with everywhere, but particularly in ancient times, and before the invention of writing. To suppose that a single line of poetry has ever grown up by itself, or by the combined labour of a large number of poets, is of course absolutely absurd. Every metrical line, every couple of lines that rhymes or scans, is a work of art, and must have been originally the work of one individual poet. But during times when memory is the only guardian of poetry, those for whom poetry is intended, I mean the public, whether large or small, have a much greater influence on the life of poetry than in our times.

If the work of a poet does not take the fancy of others, it comes and goes, and is forgotten. It may be an excellent poem, but unless it rouses the sympathy of the hearers, it cannot live, or survive the poet that made it. In that sense, therefore, the people at large had a share and a very important share in its poetry. Poetry had to be composed to please the people, and poetry could not survive unless it pleased the people. It was not exactly a survival of the fittest or the best, but it was always a survival of what best fitted the taste of the many. Think what would be the effect on modern literature, if all books of which the newspapers disapprove, were ipso facto to vanish. Life would be lighter, no doubt, but it would prove poorer also. The popular poetry of England would be without its Wordsworth, its Tennyson, and certainly without its Browning.

But the verdict of the many did not only determine whether the children of the Muses should live at all, by either taking them up or rejecting them, but it likewise exercised the strongest influence on their later life. Those who had to preserve in their memory the songs which had become popular, felt themselves at liberty to leave out any lines that fell flat, to add lines which might suit the views of different audiences, nay to combine portions of poetry which belonged to the same cycle, and this often regardless of contradictions, such as have been detected in the Homeric and other popular poems by modern scholars. All this, if you think about it, is so natural that it could hardly have been otherwise. Memory and oral tradition are indeed wonderful keepers of popular poetry, and when once certain productions of that popular poetry have been recognised and invested with a sacred authority, I do not hesitate to say that poems are safer in the memory than in manuscripts. But there are certain influences in the first gathering and in the later adaptation of popular poetry to changing popular tastes, which justify us in saying that in one sense the poetry of the people is not the work of one poet, but the result of the combined labour of many popular poets and many popular critics.

It might seem as if this were mere theory, plausible, no doubt, as accounting for the peculiar character of popular poetry such as we find it, not only in Greece, but among many other nations. Nor have there been wanting objections. We are so little aware of the powers of the human memory, before it was systematically ruined by the invention of writing and reading, as Plato knew, and by the invention of printing, as we all know, that many a scholar has declared it absurd to suppose that the Homeric poems could have been preserved by oral tradition, and many a poet has added his testimony that no man could write,—I mean, could compose, so long a poem as the Iliad and the Odyssey, without pen, paper, and ink. Facts, however, are stronger than arguments. I have seen Hindus who knew the Veda by heart, and who could detect by ear any misprint, any false accent, in my edition of the Rig-veda. As to the possibility of composing long poems without writing them, I shall not argue like a lawyer and point out that Homer, if he was blind, could not possibly have written the Iliad and the Odyssey, but could only have dictated them, always supposing that writing had been known at his time. But here, too, it is better to appeal to facts, and to facts coming from a quarter where we should least have expected them.

Finnish Epic Poetry.

You remember the Fins, of whom I spoke to you in my first course of Lectures. They belong neither to the Aryan nor to the Semitic stock. They speak one of the Ural-Altaic group of languages. They now live partly in Sweden, partly in Russia. You may remember how Mr. Gladstone1, when lately in Scotland, stood up for them as one of the oppressed nationalities of the world. Whether they are fit for Home-rule, and whether Mr. Gladstone's advocacy is likely to secure to them the benefits of Home-rule, and at the same time seats in the Imperial Parliament at St. Petersburg—whenever there is such a Parliament—are matters that do not concern us. But what concerns us is, that among the peasants of Finland, among people ignorant of reading and writing, large fragments of epic poetry have been discovered during the first half of our century, entirely preserved by oral tradition, never written before, either by the poet or by his admirers, and yet easily fitted together into one epic poem. I wish I had time to explain to you the process by which these poems had been preserved, and at last have been collected, printed, critically edited, and translated2. But I think you will have seen, even from these short remarks, in what sense popular poetry, such as the Homeric poems, for instance, may be said to reflect not only the thoughts of one poetic mind, but at the same time the thoughts of many people, who would not have listened to, that is to say, who would not have allowed any poetry to survive, except what they themselves approved of.

The Nekyia does not represent the popular Belief.

The question now arises, May we take what Homer says or implies about the dead, may we, more particularly, take his Nekyia, as reflecting the general ideas of the Greeks at his time? I doubt it.

First of all, what do people mean by his time? That there may have been epic poetry, or Homeric poetry, about 1000 B.C., among Asiatic and European Greeks, need not be questioned. But that the Homeric poems, as we now possess them, were reduced to writing much before 700 B.C., has never been proved, for the simple reason that the use of alphabetic writing for literary purposes, in the full sense of that word, before that date, has never been established, whether in Greece, or anywhere else.

But whether we place these poems in the form in which we now possess them, 1000 or 700 B.C., it does by no means follow that they represent, as it were, a complete stratum of Greek thought, still less that all we find in later times of Greek thought, language, myth, religion, and philosophy must have passed through that Homeric stratum. This would be taking far too narrow a view of the ancient growth of the Greek intellect. You know with what contempt some of the ancient philosophers of Greece spoke of Homer as one who had degraded the gods by what he sang of them. That shows that they at all events did not consider him as the only, as the earliest and truest representative of the ancient religion of the Greeks. And what applies to religion, applies to everything else. The Homeric poems are a splendid fragment, but they are a fragment only of ancient Greek thought. It is because they are the only fragment left to us of that ancient period, that we have so often been tempted to take them as a complete image of that period, and that we have forgotten that epic poetry in describing the wars and adventures of an heroic race, reflects chiefly the thoughts of one section of ancient society, and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts, the feelings, the customs, and superstitions of the people at large.

The Homeric poems, as you know, tell us very little about the state of the departed, except in that rhapsody of the Odyssey which is called the Nekyia, the journey of Odysseus to the realm of Hades. Many scholars in describing to us what the ancient Greeks thought about life after death have taken that Nekyia for their chief, nay for their only guide. But this very rhapsody has by some excellent critics been considered as very peculiar and exceptional, and as being possibly the work of a different, probably a Boeotian poet.

These are points that admit of discussion, but there is nothing to lead us to admit that what Homer tells us about the state of the departed in Hades was all that the Greeks believed about a future life.

Take so simple a question as the disposal of dead bodies. If we took our information from Homer only, we should say that the ancient Greeks burnt the corpse. But there is a very well supported tradition that in the days of Cecrops the Athenians buried their dead3.

I believe we may safely say that sacrifices in honour of the dead, the pouring out of blood on the grass, and the burning of victims dedicated to the departed, are all unknown in the Homeric poems. Nay, the same applies to Hesiod also. Whenever a general remark of this kind is made, it always provokes opposition, and great efforts are made to discover some traces in support of the opposite opinion. Thus in our case, the games celebrated by Achilles in honour of Patroklos, and again the pouring out of blood by Odysseus for the shades in Hades, have been pointed out to show that Homer knew of sacrifices for the dead, and of worship of ancestral spirits. But it is too easily forgotten that when such beliefs and customs are once recognised, they do not manifest themselves in a few isolated cases only, but pervade the whole atmosphere of a poem. The funeral honours paid to Patroklos stand by themselves. They are clearly an exceptional event. And the blood poured out by Odysseus to restore the shades of some departed heroes and heroines to life for a short time only, is something totally different from what is meant by ancestral worship4.

But, in spite of this, I feel by no means inclined to say that these natural manifestations of human piety were altogether absent in ancient Greece, and took their origin in post-Homeric times only. We are told in fact on very good authority that one of the laws collected by Drakon was ‘to honour the gods and the local heroes5’. Drakon collected his laws in the seventh century B.C., and even in his time this was called a perpetual law.

I doubt even whether a rhapsody like the Nekyia, treating of so lugubrious a subject, could ever have become very popular either at private or public festivals. It was preserved, however, probably for the same reason for which the catalogue of the ships was preserved. It became something like the golden book of the Venetian republic. To have the names of certain heroes or heroines entered in the Nekyia, became like a title of nobility to the families or localities to which the most illustrious of the departed heroes and heroines belonged, and there can be little doubt that this very natural ambition led to the subsequent additions to the illustrious roll of the names both of famous ancestors and of renowned cities.

If we keep all this in mind, we shall more easily understand two things,—first, that the state of the departed should be so rarely and only so vaguely alluded to in the Homeric poems; and secondly, that the Nekyia should in a less degree than other portions of the Iliad and Odyssey, reflect the universal thoughts of the Greeks on the mysterious subject of death and life after death.

We know that this subject, the state of the dead, is at all times and in all countries one of the vaguest, one almost entirely determined by individual hopes and fears and imaginations, one on which the human heart is ready to believe almost anything, and one on which human wisdom can say nothing. In the Homeric Nekyia we may see a picture of the lower world—if it is indeed a lower world—adapted to the great epic drama of which it forms a part; but I doubt whether we can accept it as a true representation of the ideas entertained by the fathers and mothers or children in the small homes of ancient Greece, as to the state of those for whom their hearts were bleeding and yearning.

Homer does not reflect popular Opinion on Death.

Let us consider a few points only, on which it seems to me quite clear that Homer does not reflect the general feeling of the Greeks with regard to the dead. One of the commonest names in Greek given to the dead is μάκαρϵς, the blest. It is found in Hesiod, who knows of the islands of the blest, μακάρωννη̑σοι, and in nearly all subsequent writers. Homer, however, never speaks of the dead as blest, but represents them as utterly miserable. You remember, how even Achilles, though honoured like a king among the departed, would rather be ‘a serf on the land of a poor and portionless man than rule over all the dead who have come to nought’ (Od. xi. 488).

If the Greeks at large had really shared Homer's idea that even the best of men were in the next world eidôla or shades, without energy, without real self-consciousness, incapable of action and enjoyment, though retaining their names and, so far their identity (ἀμϵνηνὰ κάρη να), they could never have called them the blest.

It might seem indeed from a passage in the Odyssey, beautifully, but yet not quite accurately, rendered by Mr. Gladstone, as if Homer had sometimes admitted in his heroes and heroines in Hades a continuance of their human feelings of love. He translates the words of Penelope (Od. xx. 79):

‘would fair-haired Artemis had stayed my breath, So might I pass below the hated earth, Yearn for Odysseus, even there in death, Nor live to cheer a soul of meaner worth.’

But the true meaning is, not that she might yearn for Odysseus there, below the hated earth, but that looking, yearning for Odysseus, she might pass below the hated earth. This may seem a small difference, but it involves important issues.

In spite of the popularity of the Homeric poems, I doubt whether the Greeks really believed that their favourite hero, Achilles, was such as Homer describes him, mourning his dreary fate in the realm of Hades. Their thoughts are more truly reflected, I believe, in popular verses on Harmodius and Aristogiton, where we read:

‘Dearest Harmodius, thou art surely not dead, Thou dwellest, they say, in the isles of the blest, Where the swift-footed Achilles, Where the son of Tydeus, the brave Diomedes, dwells.’

Here we see a very different Achilles from that of Homer, dwelling in the isles of the blest with Diomedes, the bravest of the brave, and with Harmodius and Aristogiton, who delivered Greece from her tyrants.

Small as Greece seems to us, it was always full of life, full of individuality, full of variety. As a rule, we may say, no doubt, that all the Greeks looked at death as the greatest of misfortunes. Yet no one was so ready as the Greek to give up his life for his country, and to prefer death with honour to life with dishonour. Some of the Greeks also had soon discovered the sorrow that is inseparable from life. With all their enjoyment of life, even the Greeks called mortal men δϵιλοί, wretched. Homer also calls them frequently δϵιλοὶ, βροτοί, miserable mortals! And when we go a little further we find a poet like Theognis in the sixth century proclaiming his conviction that it is ‘best for man not to be born and to see the rays of the burning sun, and, if born, then as soon as possible to pass through the gates of Hades, and to lie down, having heaped up much earth as his grave.’

Πάντων μὲν μὴ ϕυ̑ναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἔριστον Μηδ᾽ ἐσιδϵι̑ν αὐγὰς ὀξέος ἠϵλίου, Φύντα δ᾽ ὅπως ὤκιστα πύλας ᾽Α��δαο πϵρη̑σαι Καὶ κϵι̑σθαι πολλὴν γη̑ν ἐπαμησάμϵϵνον.


And while Homer knows nothing of the blessedness of the departed, he seems likewise ignorant of any punishments inflicted on the dead for crimes committed in this life. This has often been denied, and the sufferings of Sisyphos, Tantalos, and Tityos have been quoted as instances of such punishments. But in all these cases the sufferers are not ordinary mortals, nor the crimes ordinary crimes. They are all crimes committed against the gods, they belong to mythology and not to ordinary life. Goethe 6 has called attention to the fact that the punishments are all of the same peculiar character. ‘The always returning stone of Sisyphos,’ he writes, ‘the flying fruits of Tantalos, the carrying water in broken vessels, all point to objects not attained. Here there is no retribution corresponding to the crime, or any specific punishment. No, the unhappy sufferers are all visited by the most terrible of human fates, namely, to see the object of serious and persevering endeavour frustrated.’

Post-Homeric Poets.

As soon, however, as we open the pages of post-Homeric poets, whether of Pindar, or Aeschylus, or Sophocles, all is changed. A belief in a continuance of life after death, in rewards and punishments in another life, meets us again and again. Even the idea that the Departed receive their relatives and friends when they come to die, is not unknown to Pindar. We hear of sacrifices for the dead. Their spirits are supposed to be capable of bringing blessings or misfortunes on those who survive them. Hence they must be pleased and appeased by offerings which are supposed to belong to the dead, and are not therefore partaken of by the living, as in the case of festival sacrifices offered to the gods. Pindar expresses even a belief in a kind of transmigration of souls, though always in human bodies. He describes the happy life of the just after death, but he also paints the sufferings of evil-doers in thrilling words, and he adds that those who thrice were able to keep the soul far from evil, will reach the isles of the blessed.

Aeschylus constantly appeals to the retribution in Hades, for ‘there also,’ be says, ‘another Zeus among the departed gives the last judgment on crimes, as we are told7.’


Plato follows in the same strain. He even quotes Pindar in the Mono (81, 6), where he says: ‘I have heard from certain wise men and women who spoke of things divine.…Some of them were priests and priestesses, who had studied how they might be able to give a reason of their profession. There have been poets also, such as the poet Pindar and other inspired men. And they say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but is never destroyed. And the moral is, that a man ought to live always in perfect holiness; for in the ninth year Persephone sends the souls of those from whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime, back again into the light of this world, and these are they who become noble kings and mighty men, and great in wisdom, and are called saintly (ἁγνοί) heroes in after ages. The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that there are, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue, and about everything.’ Here we see again a belief in something like metempsychosis.

Plato becomes even superstitious, when in the Phaedo (113) he describes the different rivers of the lower world, the Acheron, the Pyriphlegethon, and the Stygian river, and the sufferings which are inflicted on different classes of evil-doers. But even when he drops all mythological language, his belief remains that ‘there is a world below in which either we or our posterity will suffer for our unjust deeds’ (Rep. 366), while his belief in a blessed life is eloquently expressed in the Phaedo (114): ‘Those who have been pre-eminent for holiness of life are released from this earthly prison, and go to their pure home which is above, and dwell in the purer earth; and those who have duly purified themselves with philosophy, live henceforth altogether without the body, in mansions fairer far than these, which may not be described, and of which the time would fail me to tell.’

The Mysteries.

There can be little doubt that in the so-called Mysteries also the fate of the soul in a future life formed the principal subject. Much has been written about these Mysteries. The most learned work on the subject is still Lobeck's Aglaophamus, published in 1829. For our own purposes it suffices to quote here the words of Cicero (Legg. ii. 14): ‘Thy Athens,’ he says, addressing Atticus, ‘seems to have produced many other excellent and divine things, but nothing more excellent, and nothing better than those mysteries by which from a wild and savage life we have been tamed and raised to a higher humanity. They are truly called initia, for it is through them that we have learnt to know the beginnings of life. And we have received from them not only good reason why we should live with joy, but also why we should die with a better hope.’

The purely mythological conception of the punishments of the wicked in Hades becomes richer in horrible detail with every generation. That given by Plutarch can hardly be excelled by mediaeval moralists. ‘There are three lakes there side by side,’ he writes, ‘one of boiling gold, the other extremely cold of lead, and the third of raw iron. Certain demons are standing by, like smiths, who with their instruments dip the wicked souls of the greedy and selfish alternately into these lakes.’

Plato's Influence.

There were, no doubt, in Greece, as elsewhere, philosophers who protested against the popular belief in these infernal regions, nay who openly denied the existence of souls after death. They either professed ignorance of anything that did not rest on the evidence of the senses, or they declared their belief that life after death was an impossibility. But the general convictions of the Greeks were not much influenced by these philosophic schools. It is true that even Sokrates and Plato often spoke hesitatingly, modestly, conditionally, when they touched on the topic of a future life. Plato, whose whole philosophy rests on a belief in the divine nature of the human soul, preserves nevertheless that intellectual reserve which is peculiar to the Greek mind, when he introduces Sokrates in the Apology as saying: ‘If death is like sleep, even then I say that to die is gain: for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say(ϵἰ��ληθη̑ ἐστι τὴ λϵγόμϵνα), all the Dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this? If, indeed, when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other half-gods (ἡμίθϵοι) who were righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making. What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that: and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not.…Besides being happier in that world than in this, they will be immortal, if what is said is truce (ϵἴπϵρ γϵ τὰ λϵγόμϵνα ἀληθη̑ ἐστιν).’

In the imaginary funeral oration, however, which Sokrates delivers in the Menexenus8, and which he professes to have learnt from Aspasia, he speaks very positively of the welcome which the departed ancestors will give to their descendants when the hour of their destiny has come (247). But immediately after he speaks conditionally, and says: ‘But, if the dead have any knowledge of the living, they will displease us most by making themselves miserable and by taking their misfortunes to heart, and they will please us best, if they bear their loss lightly and temperately.’

It is well known that Thucydides in his Funeral Oration is altogether silent on the existence of the soul after death, while others, such as Demosthenes (De Falsa Leg. 66), speak conditionally, like Plato, ‘If the departed see us, if they know what we are doing, they will rejoice.’

Xenophon's Cyropaedia.

Another pupil of Sokrates, Xenophon, speaks in a similar strain when he introduces the dying Cyrus taking leave of his children: ‘By the paternal gods, my sons,’ he says, ‘respect one another, if you care to please me. For you surely do not imagine that you know clearly that I shall be nothing, when I have finished with my human life. For even now you never saw my soul, but you knew its existence from what it did. And have you not seen, what terrors the souls of those who have suffered injustice bring upon the criminals; what avenging spirits they send to the evil-doers? And do you believe that the honours paid to the dead would continue, if their souls had no longer any power? I, indeed, O sons, have never believed that the soul, while it is in a mortal body, lives, and is dead when it is free from it: for I see that even these mortal bodies live only so long as the soul is in them. Nor can I believe that the soul will be without reason (ἄϕρων), after it has been separated from this unreasoning body; but when the mind has been separated, unmixed and pure from the body, then it is likely that it will be most rational. When man is dissolved, it is clear that everything has gone to what is homogeneous, except the soul, which alone, whether present or absent, is never seen. Consider also that nothing is nearer to human death than sleep, and that the soul of man seems then most divine, and sees then something of the future, because it is then most free. If then these things are as I believe, and the soul leaves the body, do what I ask from reverence for my soul. But if it is not so, and if the soul remains in the body and dies, even then do not do or think anything impious or unholy for fear of the eternal, the omniscient, the omnipotent gods, who hold together this order of all things, flawless, unfading, unfailing, and inconceivable by its greatness and by its beauty.’

Influence of Philosophers.

These may be called purely philosophical speculations, confined to the schools, and not representative of public opinion in Greece. This is true, to a certain extent. No nation consists of philosophers only, but no nation escapes their influence. How few people read Kant, and yet such words as Das Ding an sich, the categories of the understanding, the categorical imperative, have become current coin in Germany, and not in Germany only. In Germany Goethe's novel, Werthers Leiden, produced such an effect that the number of suicides from an unhappy love became alarming. In Greece we are told that Plato's Phaedo produced a similar effect. We read in Kallimachos (Epigram 25): ‘With the words, Helios, farewell! Kleombrotos, the Ambrakiote, sprang from a high wall into death, without having suffered anything worthy of death; he had only read one book, Plato's book on the soul9.’

But though the popular mind is certainly enlightened and guided by those who were rightly called men of light and leading, we must carefully distinguish between the form which their teaching assumes in the language of the people, and the full and accurate expression which they give to it themselves.

During historical times, if we may judge from poetry, laws, customs, inscriptions, and all the rest, the Greeks did not commit themselves to a belief in a Homeric Hades, in a Tartaros, or in Elysian fields. All this belonged to mythology and to the past. What they really cared for, and what they expressed when it was necessary to speak of the departed, was that, though the body was burnt or buried, their soul was not destroyed. On the monument of those who had fallen in 431 B.C., in the battle of Potidaea, the following inscription was engraved

Αἰθὴρ μὲν ψυχὰς ὑπϵδέξατο, σώ[ματα δὲ χθω̑ν] τω̑ν δὲ, Ποτιδαίας δʼ ἀμϕὶ πύλας ἔδ[αμϵν].

‘The aether has received the souls, but the earth the bodies of these men. They fell round the gates of Potidaea10.’

The same sentiment is expressed again and again with slight variations.

Thus a saying is ascribed to Epicharmos (Plat. cons. Apoll. p. 110):

συνϵκρίθη καὶ διϵκρίθη κἀπη̑νθϵν ὅθϵν ἠννθϵν πάλιν, γα̑ μὲν ϵἰς γα̑ν, πνϵυ̑μ᾽ ἄνω᾽ τί τω̑νδϵ χαλϵπόν; οὐδὲ ἕμ.

‘It was mixed together and was separated, it went again from whence it came, earth to earth, the spirit upwards. What is difficult here? Nothing.’

Euripides, in the Supplices, 531, says:

᾽Εάσατ᾽ ἤδη γῃ̑ καλυϕθη̑ναι νϵκρούς, ὅθϵν δ᾽᾽ ἕκαστον ἐς τὸ σω̑μ᾽ ἀϕίκϵτς, ἐνταυ̑θ᾽ ἀπϵλθϵι̑ν, πνϵυ̑μα μὲν πρὸς αἰθέρα, τὸ σω̑μα δ᾽ ἐς γη̑ν.

‘Let now the dead bodies be covered by the earth, and each go away whence it came into the body; the breath to the aether, the body into the earth,’

The collection of Greek inscriptions contains many lines inscribed on funeral monuments, all breathing the same spirit11.

‘The Moira seized him,’ we read, ‘who had been kind-hearted to his fellows, gentle to the good, an enemy to the wicked; she gives the body here beneath the earth, the soul high above to heaven.’

A daughter who has been killed by lightning says to her mother:

‘Mother, leave thy grief, remembering the soul which Zeus has rendered immortal and undecaying to me for all time, and has carried now into the starry sky.’

On a tomb of a drowned sailor we read:

‘Breakers have broken bones and flesh, but the soul inhabits the aethereal roof’ (αἰθέριον πόλον).

And again:

My name is Menelas, but what lies here is my body, the soul dwells in the aether of the immortals.’


‘Even if thou hurriest by, stop a moment, dear traveller! The fate of death seized me, and the earth covers my body, taking back the gift which she had once bestowed. But my soul went to the aether and to the halls of Zeus; the unchanging law took my bones only into Hades.’

Sometimes we read that the soul ‘is at home with the stars, and dwells in the sacred place of the Blest.’ Sometimes, that the dead dwells in the place of life, by the side of the gods. A philosopher declares from his grave, ‘I inhabit the sacred abode of the heroes, not that of Acheron; for such a goal of life is granted to the wise.’

I insert one more epitaph, taken from the Greek Anthology, of which it has truly been said that it is, as it were, a missing link between Paganism and Catholicism, and that its creed is Christianity without Christ.

Οἰκ ἔθανϵς Πρώτη, μϵτἐβης δ᾽ ἐς ἀμϵίνονα χω̑ρον Καὶ ναίϵις μακόρων νήσους θαλίῃ ἐνι πολλῃ̑᾽ ῎Ενθα κατ᾽ ᾽Ηλυσίων πϵδίων πϵδίων σκιρτω̑σα γέγηθας ῎Ανθϵσιν ἐν μαλακοι̑σι κακω̑ν ἔκτοσθϵν ἁπάντων, Οὐ χϵιμὼν λυπϵι̑ σ᾽ οὐ καυ̑μ᾽ οὐνου̑σος ἐνοχλϵι̑ Οὐ πϵινῃ̑ς, οὐ δίψος ἔχϵι σ᾽ οὐδὲ ποθϵινὸς ᾽Ανθρώπων ἔτι σοι βίοτορ᾽ ζώϵις γὰρ ἀμέμπτως Αὐγαι̑ς ἐν καθαραι̑σιν ᾽Οὐγαι̑ς ἐν καθαραι̑σιν ᾽Ολύμπου πλησίον ὄντος.

‘Dying, thou art not dead!—thou art gone to a happier country, And in the isles of the blest thou rejoicest in weal and abundance,

There, Proté, is thy home in the peace of Elysian meadows, Meadowsjwith asphodel strewn, and peace unblighted with sorrow. Winter molests thee no longer, nor heat nor disease; and thou shalt not

Hunger or thirst any more; but, unholpen of man and unheedful,

Spotless and fearless of sin, thou exultest in view of Olympus; Yea, and thy gods are thy light, and their glory is ever upon thee.’

(Translated by Hon. Lionel A. Tollemache,

Stones of Stumbling, p. 64.)

The Divinity of the Soul.

But while these expressions of faith and hope satisfied the great mass of mourners in Greece, while to them the departed were simply the Blest (μάκαρϵς, also μακαρίται, and ἥρωϵς), dwelling on high with the Blest or with the gods, a more philosophical, or, I should say, a more Platonic view of the soul manifests itself likewise in many places.

Plato's thoughts about the soul were not concerned only with its fate after death, he looked upon the soul as eternal, as pre-existent, as imprisoned in the body, and as really delivered from her prison by death. He himself does not call the soul a god, but he never doubts her divine nature. His followers, however, speak more boldly, perhaps more mythologically, and call the soul of man a god.

Cicero, who became the most active interpreter of Plato at Rome, speaks likewise of the soul as divine, because, as he adds, ‘I do not dare, like Euripides, to call it a god12.’

It is difficult to say what real difference there is between these two expressions. Can anything be divine, and yet not participate in the nature of a god? It is language that confuses us, and leads us to imagine that there is a difference, and that there can be different kinds of divinity, one belonging to the gods, the other to men. But if there is a divine substance, it can be but one and the same, and differences can be differences of manifestation only. Cicero himself seems to have felt this, and he speaks quite as boldly as Euripides when he relates the ‘Dream of Scipio13.’

Somnium Scipionis.

‘Strive for that,’ he says, ‘and know that not thou art mortal, but this thy body. For thou art not what this bodily form shows, but the soul (mens) is what everybody really is, and not the figure which can be shown with the finger. Know therefore that thou art a god, for it is God who lives, perceives, remembers, judges, and who governs, leads, and moves this body over which he is placed, as the principal God governs, leads, and rules this world. As God himself moves this world which is partially mortal, thus the eternal mind (animus) moves this frail body.…

‘As it is clear that that is eternal which is moved by itself, who would deny that this nature belongs to the mind (animi)? For mindless (inanimum) is everything which is moved by an external impulse, but what is living (animal) that is impelled by an inner movement which is its own, and this is the proper nature and power of the mind (animus). If then the soul alone of all things is moved by itself, it is certainly not born, and it is eternal.’

These are the words of Cicero, but the spirit, as you perceive, is the spirit of Plato—and, will not many of us add, the spirit of truth?

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